When the Tomb Raider franchise was revived by Crystal Dynamics in 2013, they hit it out of the park with one of the best games in series history. Lara Croft was back, and she was going to conquer the Action/Adventure genre. Admittedly I was never a fan of the Tomb Raider series, but since playing the Tomb Raider reboot on Xbox One I immediately became addicted to the intense story and logical gameplay.

When Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics announced the timed exclusive sequel to this award winning game called Rise of the Tomb Raider, I was immediately excited. Was the hype overdone, or is this game really worthy of being called ‘Game of the Year’?

Story

Right off the bat the game starts off with an action packed intro. Lara Croft, who is out to seek the fountain of youth, follows the clues and trails left by her disgraced father. Her expeditions lead her to exotic countries and locations. The story also have several twists that will shock you, while letting your heart race as Lara overcomes some of the most intense situations. After playing this game, it felt like Crystal Dynamics didn’t leave any of the plot or story branches pointing into a dead end. If you’re looking for a story that will leave you wanting more, Rise of the Tomb Raider certainly keeps the player engaged.

Is the story alone worth getting an Xbox One to play this game? Absolutely!

Gameplay

With third person games, you can’t really expect something different from any game. Games like Batman series, Shadow of Mordor and other action adventure games in this genre have in their own way tried to differentiate gameplay mechanics. However they all seem to be similar in some way or another. In the case of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics took the already impeccable gameplay of the Tomb Raider Reboot and made it even more fluid.

But there are quite a number of issues I have with this type of game and especially Rise of the Tomb Raider. Although the gameplay is quite easy to master, switching to different type of weapons and/or ammunition types can be jarring. In the case of having to kill the Bear during the first sequence, I was under the impression that the switching mechanic between standard arrows and poison gas arrows was the same as the Tomb Raider reboot. Only after several attempts and a friend letting me know that you had to use the Right bumper to fire different types of ammo, it finally worked. I would prefer that they keep the simple but effective fixed switch mechanic where you press left or right on the d-pad to select your ammo of choice.

Needless to say, the gameplay is satisfying, challenging and entirely worth your time. I usually opted for stealth when running through the missions, but sometimes you have to pull out your gun. Assassination kills are satisfying as well, as it brings some elements of Assassins Creed to the game.

Graphics

When Crystal Dynamics showed off gameplay at E3 and Gamescom this year, I was in awe at the graphics fidelity they showed off all running at 1080p 30FPS. And what I’ve seen certainly translates back into the actual game. The worlds are gorgeous, there aren’t any texture out of place and the worlds seem alive. I kept staring at Lara’s hair as it reacts dynamically to what she’s actually doing.

Additionally, Lara reacts to her surroundings. When the wind picks up she shivers, when she comes close to any fire, she warms her hands. The snow in the game also dynamically reacts to Lara plowing through the snow leaving trails. When Lara gets out of the water, she dries her hair by squeezing out excess water. It all adds to the overall experience and gives Rise of the Tomb Raider one of the most realistic gameplay worlds I’ve experienced.

The Xbox One certainly holds its own in this game, and I’ve yet to experience a framerate drop. However you can see the concessions they had to make with some aliasing and shimmering becoming apparent in certain situations. However it’s short lived and does not distract you from the overall experience.

Overall

If you’re one of the few who was upset that Microsoft locked down this game for a year, then you have to go out and buy an Xbox One. This game alone is worth the price of admission and with Microsoft selling bundles including both games it’s worth grabbing one this holiday. The story is cohesive, the gameplay is tight and it will leave you wanting more by the time you get that final achievement.

Rise of the Tomb Raider compliments the legacy of the Tomb Raider franchise and is certainly one of the best, if not the greatest Tomb Raider game ever made. A definite buy.